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Interactivity at Core of Football Hall Design

Exterior rendering of the College Football Hall of Fame, which features a football-shaped rotunda
The defining element of the College Football Hall of Fame will be an abstract football-shaped rotunda. Atlanta Hall Management

The new College Football Hall of Fame, in Atlanta, is designed to immerse visitors in the game-day experience.

March 19, 2013—The moment visitors arrive at the abstract football-shaped entry of the new College Football Hall of Fame, in Atlanta, they will be immersed in college football culture. From the players and coaches to the fans and cheerleaders to the schools’ colors and fight songs, all of the elements that give college football games their distinctive energy and emotion will be celebrated throughout the building in an effort to provide a game-day experience any day of the year.

The College Football Hall of Fame is being relocated from its former home, in South Bend, Indiana, to a contemporary facility at the corner of Marietta and Baker streets in Atlanta’s bustling convention and tourism district. The National Football Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the hall, and Atlanta Hall Management, the group that will oversee the new facility, broke ground on the structure in January. The museum is being constructed on the site of a former parking lot adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center, a mammoth convention center that hosts more than 1 million visitors annually. It will also be adjacent to the Georgia Dome and the Omni Hotel at CNN Center and near Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the future National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

 Diagram for the hall's playing field tensile roof

The hall’s playing field will be capped by a tensile roof supported
by four 90 ft long curved Vierendeel trusses and cable bridging
with pin connections. Sykes Consulting, Inc.

The 94,256 sq ft hall will house three levels of memorabilia and interactive exhibits designed to give visitors an idea of what it is like to be part of a college football game, whether as a future Hall of Famer or as a member of the school band. “The ideal facility for the Hall of Fame is one that will take guests beyond a museum-style tour by creating engaging and interactive activities supported by state-of-the-art technology and multimedia, as well as historic artifacts,” said John Christie, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Atlanta Hall Management, in written responses to questions from Civil Engineering online. In addition to exhibits of football artifacts, the new facility will offer children’s activities, interactive multimedia displays, a theater that will show a high-definition 3-D film about the history of college football, and spaces for special events, including a 45 yd indoor football field.

The Atlanta-based architecture firm tvsdesign designed the hall so that its mission would be apparent to visitors even before they entered the structure. This is accomplished with a central design element known as the rotunda, which suggests a football standing on its end or perhaps a helmet from football’s early years. Curving above the hall’s main entrance, the rotunda will house the entry tunnel, the Hall of Fame proper, and the theater. It will be clad in metal panels, and a large window will offer views of Centennial Olympic Park. Over the length of the project, we obviously explored a number of alternatives of how . . . the design could iconically represent the mission of the building,” says Kevin Gordon, AIA, LEED AP, a principal of tvsdesign. “So we tried to abstract a number of football-oriented shapes [with this element].”

 Interior rendering of the building's three-story entry lobby known as the quad

Visitors will pass through an entry tunnel and into a three-story
entry lobby known as the quad. Atlanta Hall Management

Sykes Consulting, Inc., a structural engineering firm based in Atlanta and the structural engineer on the project, used building information modeling to realize the rotunda’s unusual geometry. The process also led to the conclusion that segmented columns would best achieve the desired form without compromising the exterior skin, says Darien Sykes, P.E., M.ASCE, the president of Sykes Consulting. “The rotunda was probably the most complex part of the structure because of its three-dimensional curvature, sensitivity to vertical structure, and interior openness,” Sykes says.

Another defining aspect of the building exterior will be an element referred to as the scrim. This glass wall will cantilever approximately 10 ft from the face of the building near the rotunda and extend 180 ft along the front of the structure. Featuring representations of football plays and players, the glass will be backlit with colorful lights that can be used to honor, for instance, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) winner of the week, enhancing the interactivity of the building, Gordon says. “It is kind of a big signboard for the building that can change colors and announce events and festivals and BCS champions,” Gordon says. “We’re super pleased . . . with the chameleon-like quality of this building to represent winning teams or event bookings within the building.”

As visitors enter the hall, they will pass through a glass tunnel illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which, like the lights of the scrim, can change color to represent particular teams. The LEDs will form the shapes of football players, giving the illusion that the players are running down the tunnel and into the three-story entry lobby, which is referred to as the quad. The tunnel, Gordon says, is “a really hip piece that sort of sets the signal for the visitor experience ahead.” Beyond the lobby, the building expands around what is perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the museum’s interior: a small football field. “The playing field is really kind of what’s going to make it feel like it’s this game-day experience,” Sykes says. “The design is a replica of a miniature football stadium.” Like a real football field, the indoor field will have turf, a goal post, and a large video screen. It will be capped by a tensile roof supported by four Vierendeel trusses 90 ft long and cable bridging with pin connections, Sykes says.

Interior rendering for one of the building's exhibit galleries, which will have views to the indoor playing field below

The exhibit galleries will have views to the indoor playing field
below. Atlanta Hall Management

The hall’s exhibit galleries will open onto the four sides of the field so that the exhibits will be visible from the field and the field will be visible from the galleries. Most of the hall will be framed using posttensioned-concrete beams and concrete slabs, and there will be composite steel bridges at the second and third levels, Sykes says. A posttensioned-concrete roof will cap much of the structure; however, a steel roof with a composite deck will be used over the exhibit areas to diminish noise from a nearby railroad. The hall will be founded on a structural slab on grade supported by piles spaced roughly 30 ft apart on center. An enclosed steel-framed walkway will connect the hall to the neighboring Omni Hotel at CNN Center.

While the building’s primary mission will be to share the history and excitement of college football, several spaces within the structure, including the interior field and the Hall of Fame, will have dual purposes. These spaces are designed so that they can also accommodate such functions as weddings, high school graduations, and holiday parties, Gordon says. “This building . . . is designed to have a pretty vigorous after-hours set of opportunities for meetings and banquets and entertainment and parties,” he says. “People are going to want to use it because the spaces are really spectacular, and also the mission of the building itself is kind of hard to resist.”

The College Football Hall of Fame has a total project price tag of $66.5 million. It is being funded for the most part by corporate donors, including the Coca-Cola Company, AT&T, Chick-fil-A, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Georgia Pacific, the Georgia Power Foundation, Brasfield & Gorrie, Kia Motors, Under Armour, and Omni Hotels. Upon its completion, in the fall of 2014, the hall is expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors a year. “The goal is to create opportunities for our visitors to experience the game of college football through the eyes of fans, players, coaches, and Hall of Famers,” Christie said. “We are confident that visitors will be treated to a college football experience that they could not find anywhere else.”



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